A Chicago Birder’s Guide to Transit-accessible Birding Hotspots

Chicago’s transit system makes it easy to get around the city without a car. This is especially true if your destination is the loop or the airport. But if your destination is to find birds at one of the Chicago region’s natural areas, it can feel a bit more like you’re stuck without many options. Luckily, hundreds of bird species and several natural areas are within reach of city transit, from city parks, to county forest preserves and a National Park.

Jackson Park

— Nearest CTA “L” stop: Cottage Grove Green Line Station

— From there: Transfer to the 63 bus to 63rd Street Beach and exit at 63rd Street Beach (about 15 minutes).

Within Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and in proximity to the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry, Jackson Park is an accessible city park with a lot to offer for birders and anyone looking to take a peaceful respite from the commotion of the city. Jackson Park is right next to Lake Michigan so nearly any bird may show up here during migration.

Red-breasted Merganser; Carl Giometti

Red-breasted Merganser; Carl Giometti

Hike the Bobolink Meadow trail for some open scenery and catch glimpses of dabbling ducks in the lagoon or try the Wooded Isle trail for a more forested setting at a site with an interesting history. A short walk to the inner and outer harbors can likely yield some diverse waterfowl especially in the winter. And make sure to check 63rd Street Beach for migrating shorebirds or perhaps a run-in with the area’s nesting Cliff Swallows in summer.

Birding by Transit is a series by COS board member Stephanie Beilke highlighting birding hotspots that are within walking distance or a short bus ride from the CTA “L”, Metra or South Shore Line. No matter your choice of transportation, these birding destinations are ones that every Chicago birder needs to check off their list.